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ACLU Files New DMCA Challenge 249

Posted by michael
from the breakin-the-law-breakin-the-law dept.
joeblowme writes "Finally, someone is stepping up to the plate to challenge the DMCA. The ACLU is filing a lawsuit on behalf of a 22-year-old programmer claiming that the law hinders the ability to effectively test internet filtering software. The story can be found here at CNet. Hopefully this will lead to one victory in reducing the scope of the DMCA." The ACLU's press release is available, as is their complaint.
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ACLU Files New DMCA Challenge

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  • by krog (25663) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @11:55AM (#3951648) Homepage
    i'm glad the ACLU is stepping up to the plate on this one. good that they're on Bruce Perens' side too. renew your membership today! [aclu.org]
  • god bless (Score:2, Informative)

    god bless the ACLU. Become a card carrying member here [virtualsprockets.com].

    • Even sent them the recommended $270 for a year. Almost immediately I got tons of letters practically demanding that I be more generous. I decided they were wasting my money and ignored them from then on. I also was a bit ticked when they supported sending that 17 (?) year old kid back to Russia with his parents after he'd lived here for some time and didn't want to go back, and would be an adult in just a year. But it was the obnoxious dunning letters that got my goat.
      • by MAXOMENOS (9802)
        I give money to ACLU, Planned Parenthood, EFF and NRA. Of those, the only one *not* to hound me for more and more money was EFF. I get bombarded by appeals for money, not just from these guys, but from other groups that think I might be interested in their causes.

        You know what I do with all that crap? I recycle it.

        Side note: sometimes the appeals for money get interesting, and I can only assume that the people who send me such solicitations haven't done their homework. Once I got a solicitation from Handgun Control Inc. I was tempted to send them a photograph of my NRA member card and an extended middle finger, but my maturity got the better of me.

      • . . . Almost immediately I got tons of letters practically demanding that I be more generous.

        This seems to be the MO for all charitable organizations these days. I've given money to many in the past, including Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Doctors w/o Borders, (Men Without Hats?), hell, even the fucking Planetary Society! (to be fair, the L5 society was kind and low-key when I was a member back in the 1980's.) National Wildlife Federation, They ALL started sending me a crapload of unwanted junk mail. I'm almost afraid to start giving to the EFF.
  • I usually cannot stand the ACLU. IMHO I feel like they usually get involved in issues that they really don't belong in because of the publicity they recieve. I hope this isn't the case here. I see their power and finances being a great benefit to the fight against the DMCA. I hope they can help fight for rights that I feel like we should have here in the US.

    /me has my fingers crossed.

    • by mberman (93546) <mbermanNO@SPAMearthling.net> on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:07PM (#3951736) Homepage
      Are you sure they don't just get involved in a lot of issues, and the only ones you hear about are the ones that involve publicity?
    • by gerf (532474)

      Sadly, it's hard to trust any organization these days, not just the government and businesses. Any org/gov/bus only has one purpose: to live on, to expand, to survive.

      Traditionally, we've knocked the big boys, M$, US gov, ect., but only because they've succeeded and have more clout, making us vulnerable. the reality is, almost any business would run the same way as M$, given the chance and the resources.

      but, the ACLU has a 'purpose'. to defend our rights. sure, they may not have ideas that correspond to our own, but they don't need to. all they need to do to survive is to be able to use their self proscribed purpose to get donations and support from those who can keep the organization working. Really, they'd do just as much as Worldcom did, if they were pushed to it.

      So, while i wouldn't trust the ACLU with everything political, economical, social, ect, i think that they can do a very good deed here in fighting the DMCA. Perhaps, they most likely surmise, they can get some computer geeks to contribute to their causes, and can thus extend their membership and capital.

      it's all business when you look at it. that's why i'm in engineering. i hate business ethics

      • Actually, the exception to this is privately owned businesses. There are quite a few of them out there and they are run for the benefit and whim of the owner(s), not necessarily to screw anybody or maximize revenues. Some people don't want to maximize revenues, just make their numbers so they can take the rest of the year off.

        There's no mechanistic law that says businesses have to be unethical or immoral, just a collective decision by the shareholders to do so whether it's explicit or just shutting their eyes to the consequences of their decisions.
    • by sugrshack (519761) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:15PM (#3951806) Homepage
      First of all, I think it's good that the ACLU is involved

      Second of all, I'm wondering why the ACLU gets such a bad rap here on ./, a place that seems to stand by some of the same basic principles that the organization swears by.

      It's interesting how people tend to not like an organiztion which is interested primarily in defending some of the basic tenets of the US constitution.

      The ACLU gets involved in many many issues which you do not hear about. Many of these are not "sexy" issues, which make news. For instance, they were recently involved with protecting the rights of Haitian refugess, basically preventing people from being deported into deplorable situations. Sure, many of you don't like the idea of immigrants, even though 99.9% of you (in the US) are descended from immigrants, but it is the basic principles of protection from tyranny of the majority that the ACLU defends.

      This particular issue is of direct relevance to /. as they are going after legislation which most here (rightly) hate. However, they exist largely to protect the public from the "mob mentality" that often ignores the rights of many groups whose opinions are in the minority.

      Witness their actions regarding the USA PATRIOT act; a ridiculous bill which basically removes many basic freedoms guaranteed in the constitution under the rubrick of protecting us from enemies. Sure there may be a point to trying to be better protected, but I'm of the view that if you remove freedom, there's very little left to protect.

      Sure the ACLU ends up getting involved with issues that may end up pissing off some their own constituencies (e.g. Skokie) but it's the principles of freedom that they stand for, not just the rhetoric.

      If you're going to bash the ACLU, then provide an alternative.

      • Second of all, I'm wondering why the ACLU gets such a bad rap here on./, a place that seems to stand by some of the same basic principles that the organization swears by.

        Slashdot does not have a consensus on the value of the ACLU, "basic principles", the quality of various operating systems or programming languages, the best drugs to take while coding, or just about anything else.

        • Slashdot does not have a consensus on the value of the ACLU, "basic principles", the quality of various operating systems or programming languages, the best drugs to take while coding, or just about anything else.

          Isn't there a statistic that says that 50% of all software projects fail? One wonders...
      • the ACLU had a pretty bad rap in the late 80's and early 90's for fighting for things many people in America disliked. (ACLU was anti school prayer, very pro abortion, I know there was others but I can't remember them) Basically getting into subjects that split the nation, and don't nessesarly have a definate constitutional mandate but simply an interpretation. Anyways, nowadays they tend to not be as extremly left wing as they used to be. But they havn't really tried to gain any PR with the middle line conservatives. Which they could do if they tried, but they arn't. Most conservatives have no idea that they have changed at all, and only recently have I figured this out myself. Though I'm still not quite sure if I should donate or not, as I used to think they were a bunch of jerks. So you know.
    • I usually cannot stand the ACLU. IMHO I feel like they usually get involved in issues that they really don't belong in because of the publicity they recieve. I hope this isn't the case here. I see their power and finances being a great benefit to the fight against the DMCA. I hope they can help fight for rights that I feel like we should have here in the US.

      Agreed, I usually get suspicious whenever I hear the ACLU has gotten involved in a case. As most of the cases they tend to get involved in are the highly controversial and highly visable cases. And I rarely find myself agreeing with thier point of view.
      However, there is the old axiom, "The enemy of my enemy is my ally". So, in this case, I'm happy to have them onboard.
      Maybe there will finally be enough money to throw at this law to get it killed.

      • Agreed, I usually get suspicious whenever I hear the ACLU has gotten involved in a case. As most of the cases they tend to get involved in are the highly controversial and highly visable cases. And I rarely find myself agreeing with thier point of view.

        Some other things that are true:

        -The only military actions that happen are the ones that you hear about.
        -The only ideas that exist are the ones that you've heard about.

        The ACLU does a great deal of stuff. The only time they make the news is when something newsworthy happens. It doesn't seem like you've accounted for this.
    • have you considered getting your news from other sources besides right-wing biased news channels. of course, i can't remember many of those when i lived in america. network news, fox news, cnn and msnbc are all biased to the right.

      mother jones and salon are about all i can think of actually.
      • Funny, I've seen academic studies (Lichter-Roth-Lichter did an entire series) which documents that reporters' political beliefs are to the left of the general public in the US, that their voting is to the left (85%+ Democrat) and that their coverage on issues tilts left. I've never seen any academic refutation of these studies for errors either in methodology or conclusion nor any counter studies showing that the media are, in fact, center-right.

        The facts are not on your side here.
  • by SpanishInquisition (127269) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @11:58AM (#3951672) Homepage Journal
    You mean that guy is paid to download porn all day?
    • by SquadBoy (167263) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:05PM (#3951731) Homepage Journal
      Funny story from my old ISP days. I was a night tech support supervisor. (My first techie job) One of the services we sold was a porn filter. Well we would get cranks who would "test" the filters and send in list after list of sites they got to. Well we in tech support knew the whole thing was bunk and it is impossible to block everything but management wanted us to verify the filters anyway. So long story short we would get list after list of porn sites and asked to make sure that we could get to them through the filter. I would use the porn lists as a reward for doing things the techs did not like to do, for example doing callbacks. So yea we where paid to surf for porn at least part of the night. :)
    • by catseye (96076) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:06PM (#3951735)
      Several years ago (pre dot-bomb), I had a friend who worked in Cupertino at Spyglass Software, makers of SurfWatch. While she had a variety of duties, her primary job was to review site-block requests sent in from SurfWatch users, and as time permitted, web surf looking for sites not accounted for in the SurfWatch "blocked" database. She'd sometimes spend four or five hours a day looking primarily for new XXX sites.

      I remember she said it was bizarre to walk into an office where everyone was hard at work with hardcore pr0n on their screens.

      err, I suppose that was an unforgivable pun. ;-)

      -A.
    • Who needs to get paid for that?
    • A co-worker knows some people who used to work for Playboy. Their jobs were to basically search the internet to make sure that other people were not profiting from copyrighted Playboy materials. So, these people really were paid to surf for porn.

      That said, they supposedly ran across some very bizzare and disturbing sites while working. Be careful what you wish for. :-)

    • I used to work at a company that builds parental controls. They had banks of people looking at porn every day, 8 hours a day, or about 200-400 pages a day. I worked closely with these guys since part of my job was ensuring that our data sets were clean. Trust me, after a couple of weeks of doing this, you really start to hurt.
  • for further info... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 25, 2002 @11:58AM (#3951676)
    an interview, and more information on Edelman (the programmer/researcher) can be found here here. [corante.com]
  • The site has been semi slashed. Reading now. OK. Sounds like a long shot to mee. The courts haven't helped before. Why should they now? We need to get this thing repealled in it's present form.
  • Not just DMCA. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:08PM (#3951753) Homepage
    This is not just involving the DMCA, but also involves click-wrap the validity license agreements (see paragraphs 62, 70-73 of the complaint).

    But, lets extend this a little. There is also issues of consumer protection, where you purchase a product, but then talk about how bad it is, that could violate a term in a license agreement. Or, it could do damage to your hardware and data, but you can get that fixed for a fee. Both these situations could violate a state's consumer protection act.

    • There is also issues of consumer protection, where you purchase a product, but then talk about how bad it is, that could violate a term in a license agreement.

      If I complain to my coworkers that .NET programs are 90% slower than their C++ unmanaged equivalents, am I violating the no-published-benchmarks clause? :)
  • It only took them a decade or so to realize that there were free speech issues online.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:17PM (#3951829)
      You're clearly ignorant of the facts. The ACLU has challenged at least three of Congress' attempts to regulate speech on the Internet, IIRC--the Communications Decency Act (way back in 96), the Child Online Protection Act, and the Children's Internet Protection Act (see a pattern here? "Won't someone PLEASE think of the children?!"). Two of those cases went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the third is on its way.

      So how does that constitute ignoring Internet speech issues? Moron.
  • "I don't want to go to jail," said Edelman, who graduated from Harvard in June, and who plans to study law there this fall. "I want to go to law school."
    So, what's the difference???
  • by rbgaynor (537968) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:10PM (#3951767) Homepage
    ...couldn't the lawsuit be considered a circumvention device?
  • As a former (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ehorizon (591829)

    card carrying member of the ACLU, (I stopped donating because of their defense of MAMBLA)It's good to see them fight a worthy cause.

    • Re:As a former (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @01:52PM (#3952464) Homepage
      The whole point of the ACLU is to provide legal defense for unpopular speech. The fact that you felt strongly enough about that to donate money, and then stopped donating when they defended NAMBLA doesn't make sense to me. I completely agree with the ACLU's defense of the Nazis in Skokie, and my family is Jewish. To consider yourself a real civil libertarian, I think you have to support ALL free speech ("Fire" not withstanding). As soon as you draw a line for yourself saying "I support free speech, but those guys at NAMBLA are too repulsive" then you're making a distinction of speech based on taste. And if you're willing to make that distinction for yourself, then by extension you are supporting that distinction by the government. And once the government gets to make free speech decisions based on popularity or taste, we're all screwed.

      I know this is sort of off-topic and I don't mean to call you out personaly, but I'm a very big supporter of the ACLU and you're post sort of struck me.

      -B
  • In my opinion, this doesn't seem like it'll get too far. They need to apply their energies somewhere with a far greater chance of success (video/audio copyprotection that prevents consumers from viewing/listening to products they purchase). It may just be that I don't read the right news sites, but it seems to me that this area has largely been ignored. People complain about the dmca, but they don't seem to want to challenge it in court on valid points. For example, I bought a dvd, i happen to like freebsd, and I don't own a dvd player up at school except for the one on my computer. What happens when I want to view it? I'm not allowed to? Didn't I purchase the right to view that dvd? I didn't purchase the right to copy it and give it to all my friends, that is illegal, and is made illegal under existing laws. The DMCA is redundant and excessive. They make it illegal not just to copy something but to have the means to copy something. Should photocopiers and printers be made illegal? I can scan in and print out a copyrighted book and distribute it to my friends using these tools.
    The problem is that our nation has become a nation of corporations and organizations.
    We are a nation of individuals with individual rights.
    The government has no business making it illegal to do things that have been legal since the beginning of our nation. We have always been allowed to read books, and until recently we have been allowed to view and listen to movies and music which we purchase.

    Hmm, this turned into a bit of a rambling rant, sorry.
  • See, that's why I gave money. That's why I'm literally a card carrying menber of the ACLU.

    I actually joined after 9/11 cuz the religious right was freaking me out. This most recent news is just extra. I'll be giving them money again this year.

  • by fizbin (2046) <martin&snowplow,org> on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:23PM (#3951871) Homepage
    I really don't understand the ACLU's strategy here. Aren't people already allowed to do this kind of research thanks to the librian of congress's decision on exemptions to the DMCA's anti-circumvention scheme? [loc.gov]

    If he's already allowed to do this type of research, what harm is the ACLU basing their decision on? Won't they just get thrown out of court for bringing an issue that isn't ripe for decision? (i.e. that has no consequences, because the librarian of congress has already crafted an exemption for this research)
    • by zoombat (513570) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:32PM (#3951935)
      I'm no legal expert by any means, but from the ACLU press release [aclu.org]:
      • Although the DMCA provides a limited exception for accessing lists of blocked Web sites, Beeson said that it is meaningless because another provision blocks users from writing the software tools necessary to access the lists.

        "The copyright law says you can look under the hood under certain circumstances but you can't build a tool needed to open the hood," Beeson said. "This irrational rule is chilling important scientific research in violation of the First Amendment."

      Assuming that's really true, it is a pretty stupid and contradictory law that should be changed, in my oh-so-humble opinion.
      • I know this is a week old, and nobody'll ever see it, but...

        Assuming that's really true, it is a pretty stupid and contradictory law

        No, it's a very cleverly contradictory law, which, presumably deliberately, pretends to provide this exemption, but in fact ensures that the exemption is useless for its stated purpose, in a manner that I can only describe as Kafkaesque.

        Also, I seem to recall that it's actually more complicated than what you quoted: actually, you are allowed to build the tool to look under the hood, provided that you are only doing it for the stated purpose, but you still can't give the tool to anyone else, even if they only want it for the same purpose. I.e., the rule against building such tools is precisely what it's an exception to, but the exception fails to extend to the rule against distribution, which would be necessary for it to be of any use.

        As a result, only those very few people who have the technical skills to build the tool are actually capable of exercising their rights under this exemption, leaving everyone else in Kafka-land. Honestly, how many of us would have been capable of creating DeCSS on our own? No, I said honestly?

        Then again, recognizing that such tools are necessary in order for people to exercise their rights, and letting this override the restrictions, would basically nullify the whole law -- there'd be no point to it then, since using the tools for other (i.e., infringing) purposes was already illegal under regular (pre-DMCA) copyright law. But then, the fact that the DMCA infringes on our right without serving any legitimate purpose has been our whole point, all along, now hasn't it?

        In sum, I don't think Hanlon's Razor [tuxedo.org] applies -- this is a case where it really is malice, not stupidity.
    • by quantaman (517394) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:39PM (#3951977)
      From the article,

      But that exemption explicitly does not permit a researcher to write and distribute software that decodes the encrypted blacklists. Because Edelman wants to do just that, the ACLU argues, the Library of Congress' decision is insufficient.

    • I really don't understand the ACLU's strategy here. Aren't people already allowed to do this kind of research thanks to the librian of congress's decision on exemptions to the DMCA's anti-circumvention scheme? [loc.gov]
      Again, the problem with slashdot is that you guys never read the articles before commenting. The article specifically addresses this:

      The DMCA's limited exemption for some forms of reverse-engineering also does not apply, the lawsuit claims. According to the DMCA, reverse-engineering must be done for "the sole purpose of identifying and analyzing those elements of the program" necessary to create similar software.

      Because Edelman's purpose is instead to critique filtering software, the ACLU says, he could be liable under the DMCA unless the court intervenes.

      Can you guys please read the bloody article before posting.

    • Aren't people already allowed to do this kind of research thanks to the librian of congress's decision on exemptions to the DMCA's anti-circumvention scheme?

      Wow, excellent question...
      Oh wait, no it isn't. RTFA!!!!

      From the article:

      Filter-hacking protections

      There is some legal immunization for blocking-software researchers. When enacting the DMCA in 1998, Congress ordered the Library of Congress to weigh exemptions to the law's broad prohibition against circumventing copy-protection techniques.

      In October 2000, the Library of Congress ruled that "the case has been made for an exemption for compilations consisting of lists of websites blocked by filtering software applications."

      But that exemption explicitly does not permit a researcher to write and distribute software that decodes the encrypted blacklists. Because Edelman wants to do just that, the ACLU argues, the Library of Congress' decision is insufficient.

      The DMCA's limited exemption for some forms of reverse-engineering also does not apply, the lawsuit claims. According to the DMCA, reverse-engineering must be done for "the sole purpose of identifying and analyzing those elements of the program" necessary to create similar software.

      Because Edelman's purpose is instead to critique filtering software, the ACLU says, he could be liable under the DMCA unless the court intervenes.

  • Support (Score:2, Interesting)

    Support for this case... how can we support it?

    Where do I send an e-mail?
    &
    Where do I send a hand written letter?

    Let me (us) know and I'm lickin' stamps. It's the LEAST I (we) can do, and I'd rather do something than just reading about it. I know, I know, hope and pray for the universe to hit a state of harmony in order for the courts to see the evil-doing(TM) in the DMCA, that'll help too!
  • I mean honestly who do you cheer for here? The ACLU is notorious for picking extremely foolish topics and going after them like its some pressing political issue.

    You know the stories I am talking about. "The ACLU has filed suit on the State of Florida for being called the Sunshine State. Mark Walbourne is allergic to the sun and feels inadiquate that he lives in Florida and people refer to it as the Sunshine State in his presence."

    Its probably not popular to the slashdot crowd, but the ACLU is just as weak-minded and lame as the DMCA
    • the ACLU sued my high school the year after i left because our district policy was to cancel school if 20% of the students weren't going to be there. it just so happened that the high school was 20% jewish that year, so they closed school on rash hashana and yom kippur. The ACLU thought that was unfair to the goyim who wanted to go to class.

      if we give our support to the ACLU when they pick a good fight, and ignore them when they pick a stupid one, they might eventually figure it all out.

  • Ah, the DMCA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smit (164117) on Thursday July 25, 2002 @12:35PM (#3951956) Homepage
    Corporations already have a remedy if someone misuses protected material--a civil suit.

    Of course, that is cost-prohibitive to the corporations. Why sue someone over a $10 CD's worth of music.

    But:

    A criminal remedy is just a civil remedy that the government pays for.

    Ta da.

    -- Paul
  • Okay, so we know that writing an app to peek inside the database of restricted domains is verboten under current DMCA rules. What I'm curious about is whether brute-forcing that same list would also run afoul of the laws. (e.g., a distributed effort to hit each domain in turn and note whether or not it's blocked.) Yes, it's reverse engineering, but doesn't involve the creation of "copyright circumvention tools" as such.

    I'm sure this has been tried at some point or another. Anyone know what the legal results were?

  • by Reziac (43301)
    Does anyone else croggle at the irony in this? A test-case against an overly-restrictive law, for the benefit of testing software used to restrict access.

    Ah, well... we'll take 'em where we can get 'em. ANY ruling that goes against the DMCA is a good start, and even a case that loses can serve to publicise the DMCA's faults.

  • I met Ben at the Internet Law Program at the Berkman Center earlier this summer. I was hoping something like this would happen; he'll make an ideal defendant.

    In a test case like this, what we're looking for is an unimpeachable plaintiff -- someone whose motives can't really be questioned, who actually has a good reason to want to do what he's doing, who has great credentials, and who's really bright. They've got that in Ben; he basically has the clout of Harvard University behind him. Not to mention the near-total respect of everyone at the Berkman Center; they refer to him as their "boy genius".

    There is one potential problem: he's already written software that does nearly what he wants to do without violating the DMCA. For the ACLU's last test case on filtering, he wrote a script that tried to access everything in non-porn categories of Yahoo's directory, keeping track of what it wasn't able to access. This is a reasonably good (though not perfect) method of determining the contents of the blocked-sites list. We have to hope that the court doesn't decide that scripts like the one Ben already wrote are "good enough," and that there is no legitimate research need to create and disseminate a program that decrypts the list itself.
    • From a technical perspective, what if part of the list isn't in Yahoo and what if part of it isn't even in DNS form but rather IP address only? There's no rule that says blocked sites *have* to be by dns label, that's only a convenience. What if a porn site IP is taken over by a legitimate site but remains on the list? How could you tell without access to the list and checking?
  • Time will tell. If the ACLU just wants an exception to the anti-circumvention clause and doesn't seek to overturn it entirely, wouldn't this do more harm than good? Asking for an exception would be like agreeing with the DMCA otherwise, it seems.
  • Well, it's about time. Not that I particularly like the ACLU, I generally don't. But they have a good track record of picking battles that can be won. And then winning them. And the DMCA is definitely one foe that deserves to lose, spectacularly.
    • Interesting...you generally dislike the ACLU (Why? Because they actually DO protect the real rights of citizens? Protect minority rights?) but then state that they usually choose arguments that are winnable. Clue: those fights are winnable because they are right. They are winnable (and won) because the only people that truly get to make judgements about what is and is not Consitutional are ultimately the Supreme Court judges. The ACLU wins becuase 1) they are right, and 2) those with a Constitutional clue and a true hold on the morality of protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority agree with the ACLU in the end.

      If this weren't the stone cold fact, then the ACLU wouldn't win. They win because they are right and the majority-based public opinion world doesn't get to determine what is and is not a Constitutional right.

      • I dislike them because I feel that they too often choose to defend the rights of the very worst segment of our society. Now I didn't say that is a bad thing, because if we do not offer equal protection under the law for even the worst among us, then the rest of us are doomed. And I understand that. But it is reason enough for me to personally dislike what they do much of the time.

        There are many people and organizations that I admire and yet dislike. They are not mutually exclusive states of mind, even here in the western world.
        • Very well. The usual problem is that (unlike you, it seems) people who "dislike" the ACLU generally refer to them as "commies" or worse and would be happy if they went away, generally because they are protecting the rights and speech of a minority that said person would otherwise have no problem with crushing/squelching/trampling upon.

          I wondered if you were in this mindless, dangerous group and it appears you are not.


  • His request was flatly refused because, according to an emailed reply from an N2H2 representative, "I am sure that you have enough intelligence to know that [the list] is proprietary information and will not be shared. I am also sure that life will some day bring you greater things to do with your time."

    That's what the blocking software company sent to this guy when he requested the full blocking list.. I bet that guy's wishing he had been a bit more professional when he wrote that e-mail...

  • The EFF has a long history [eff.org] of being ahead of the curve on tech/legal issues, including ongoing DMCA cases [eff.org]. They took the 2600 case on principle, even though I'm sure they'd have prefered a more obviously sympathetic character who'd win the Supreme Court's hearts. But of course the RIMPAA isn't going to voluntarily give the anti-DMCA a posterboy. The EFF also dropped that particular case [slashdot.org], and I'm sure they didn't like to admit they couldn't win that one. They chose to lose that battle (an expensive battle) to make it easier to win the larger war.

    For the sake of the EFF I'm very glad that the ACLU is taking up this cause. The EFF has only so much money- far fewer people donate than you think- and money is their limiting resource: if they had more, they could take on more cases. Even with their limited budget (much, much smaller than the ACLU's) they fought the DMCA. Now they can move funds to equally important technology cases without fear that the DMCA is legally unopposed. Being ahead of the curve is expensive: you don't get the same sympathy donations from the general public. I've written it before: [slashdot.org] join the EFF [eff.org] so they'll be there (on principle *and* with enough funds) for You.

  • Courts don't usually like cases like these, because they are entirely hypothetical:

    We plan to do X, and we're afraid that we will be sued and/or prosecuted under laws Y. Can you please tell us whether or not X will be legal?

    The problem is, you can come up with any number of possible X and Y's of this form and ask a court for an opinion. Courts would be swamped if they had to rule on every possibility like this. Courts prefer to deal with actual disputes, not hypothetical ones. They may throw this whole thing out on that basis.

    In this particular case, while Edelman *plans* to pursue this research, don't forget that he's entering Harvard Law School in a couple of months. From what I've heard, that's a pretty challenging program. He may not have that much time on his hands to pursue his hobby of saving the world. So until he actually engages in the activity, it is all hypothetical.

    Further, while the suit envisions various responses that N2H2 and/or the government might bring, based on the DMCA and the license agreement, these are again entirely hypothetical. If the court does rule on these matters, nothing would prevent N2H2 from proceeding on other grounds not anticipated by the ACLU. So the court would be faced with the same lawsuit twice, and its efforts to rule on the hypothetical case would turn out to have been a waste of time.

    In the end, ruling on hypothetical actions and hypothetical responses usually involves too much uncertainty to make the effort worth the court's time. Sometimes they will do it if it is a sufficiently important case, but more often they'll say, come back when there is an actual dispute with facts on the table. That's basically what happened with the Felten case, and chances are the same thing will happen here.

"If a computer can't directly address all the RAM you can use, it's just a toy." -- anonymous comp.sys.amiga posting, non-sequitir

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